Image of someone cutting plants into a trash can.

Simple tips for cleaning & disinfecting trash cans.

Last Updated: December 3, 2021

Cleaning out the trash can every now and then is a good way to keep odors, bacteria, and nasty insects out of your home. Here’s how to do it naturally, of course.

You take the garbage out regularly, but how many times have you thought to actually look inside the can? If it’s been a minute since you’ve taken time to clean or disinfect your garbage can, there might be some pretty serious germs lurking inside.

No need to panic. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean a trash can — both kitchen and outdoor types.

Are you even supposed to clean a trash can?

The short answer is yes.

If you’ve noticed yucky smells coming from your indoor or outdoor trash can or you can see noticeable residue inside, chances are you’re dealing with some nasty germs or bacteria — or worse, a mess of maggots! Yikes!

How often should you clean your trash can?

Illustration of a calendar.

As a general rule of thumb, the best way to keep your trash can from smelling is to deep clean it at least once a month. If you notice gunk in the bottom of the can, it never hurts to clean it more often.

4 steps to disinfect and clean your indoor kitchen trash can

The last thing you want is for germs and bacteria to multiply inside your home, stinking up the place and increasing your risk for illness.

Fortunately, the deep cleaning process doesn’t take long and isn't as difficult as you think.

Follow the 4 steps below to keep your trash can spic-and-span and bacteria-free!

And learn more about the differences between sanitizing vs. disinfecting vs. cleaning while you’re at it.

Step 1. Create your own natural cleaning solution

A natural all-purpose cleaner works miracles on a variety of surfaces, including the inside of a trash can.

Or, make your own cleaner using household staples. A blend of 1 cup water, 4 cups white vinegar or cleaning vinegar, and ½ cup dish soap should do the trick.

Step 2. Remove trash particles and apply the cleaner

Avoid a nasty mess before you begin cleaning by first removing food or trash particles with a biodegradable or compostable wipe or tree-free paper towel.

After applying a generous amount of your go-to cleaner, use a scrub brush or toilet brush to remove caked-on grime from the inside and outside of the trash can.

Step 3. Do a thorough deep cleaning, if necessary

If you’re dealing with stubborn spots, use an abrasive cleaner like baking soda for a more thorough deep cleaning.

Mix equal parts water and baking soda, apply to the can, and scrub with the brush.

Step 4. Rinse, disinfect, and allow the trash can to air dry

Use your garden hose to thoroughly rinse the trash can until the water runs clear. Let the can dry completely in the sun.

Then, keep your trash can germ-free with a natural disinfectant spray after it’s wiped clean.

Grove Tip

What else can you clean with baking soda and cleaning vinegar?

Looking to clean the dirtiest jobs around the house with simple, natural ingredients?

Check out all the spots in your kitchen and home that are no match for what’s in your cupboard—Grove writer Kristen tried baking soda on grout, carpet, and more, and writer Phoenix gave cleaning vinegar a whirl in the kitchen and bathroom.

How to clean an outdoor trash can

Not only can your outdoor cans start to smell, especially in the hot summer months — they can also be prone to nasty insects, including maggots.

Before you begin cleaning, gather a few basic staples like:

4 steps for cleaning an outdoor trash can

Take a deep breath and relax — you’re going to get through this!

Now, follow these easy-breezy steps to clean smells, bacteria, and even maggots out of the trash can!

Shower head illustration

Step 1. Rinse away grime with a garden hose

Begin by thoroughly rinsing the trash can with your garden hose.

Turn the can on its side, and don’t hold back on spraying away!

Step 2. Create your natural cleaning solution

Combine 4 cups each of white distilled vinegar and water, and add 1/2-cup of natural dish detergent.

Pour the mixture inside the can.

Step 3. Show off your scrubbing muscles

Use your preferred scrub brush to scrub the inside of the can.

If you’re a germaphobe, wear rubber gloves and use a scrub brush or toilet brush with an extended handle.

Illustration of blue spray bottle

Step 4. Rinse again and clean the outside

After scrubbing, turn the trash can on its side again, and rinse with your garden hose.

If you notice any leftover residue, repeat the above steps. Then, apply the same techniques to the outside of the trash can.

How does discarded trash affect the environment?

According to the National Ocean Service, discarded trash like plastics and metals are a source of pollution runoff. Certain waste materials can also cause the transmission of diseases.

The best way to protect the environment when you’re taking out the trash is to recycle as many materials as possible, put food waste in your compost bin, and choose eco-friendly trash bags that won’t leave more waste in the landfills.

Got kids? They’re famous for generating all manner of trash. Here’s how to reduce plastic and other waste when you have little people in your household.

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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